Fennel: properties, benefits and tips for using it

Fennel has excellent digestive, purifying and antioxidant properties, making it an excellent ally to keep fit. Discover the benefits of fennel and how to best consume it!

Belonging to the botanical class of Umbrelliferae, fennel (foeniculum vulgare) is a plant with recognized antioxidant, purifying, digestive and endocrine properties. Typical of the Middle East area and the Mediterranean basin, its cultivation, which does not require special attention or precautions, is now widespread all over the world.

We can distinguish several species of cultivated (sweet) fennel, which are well suited to different latitudes. These varieties appear as crunchy vegetables, characterized by a rather large white heart, surmounted by bright green leaves. They differ well from wild fennel or fennel: a plant that grows spontaneously in different areas of our country and of which mainly leaves, shoots and seeds are used.

Fennel: calories and nutritional values

Fennel is a plant rich in water, with few calories, which is well suited to be used as a “hunger breaker” in low-calorie diets. 100 grams of fennel, in fact, provide only 13 kcal ! It is also low in protein but rich in fiber, mineral salts and vitamins: in particular 100 grams of fennel contain about 7% of the recommended daily amount of potassium, 5% of phosphorus and calcium and 2% of vitamin A On the other hand, the fat content is practically zero.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of fennel:

  • Waterfall: 93.2 g
  • kcal: 13
  • Proteins: 1.2 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • of which saturated: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.0 g
  • of which sugars: –
  • Fibers: 2.2 g
  • Iron: 0.4 mg
  • Soccer: 45 mg
  • Sodium: 141 mg
  • Potassium: 276 mg
  • Phosphorus: 39 mg
  • Zinc: 0.1 mg
  • C vitamin: 12 mg
  • Vitamin E: 0.2 mg
  • Vitamin A: 14 ugr
  • Folate: 49 ugr
  • Glycemic index: 15
  • Cholesterol: 0 g

Fennel: nutritional properties

Fennel is particularly interesting from a nutritional level, especially thanks to its high content in calcium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. These micronutrients are essential for our well-being and source of various benefits :

  • Calcium: the most abundant mineral in the human body, it is essential for the health of our skeleton and is involved in the transmission of nerve stimuli and in muscle contraction;
  • Potassium: mineral present in good quantities in fennel and involved in various physiological processes such as muscle contraction, the maintenance of a correct hydro-saline balance and the regulation of blood pressure;
  • Vitamin A: important for the correct functioning of the visual system, for the maintenance of intestinal epithelial cells and for the functioning of the immune and genital systems;
  • Vitamin C: with a strong antioxidant action, it is essential for our immune system, it is also involved in the synthesis of collagen and is important for the assimilation of iron by red blood cells.

Furthermore, fennel contains a good amount of polyphenols and in particular quercetin, a powerful antioxidant with recognized anticancer properties, rosmarinic acid, able to stimulate the enzymes involved in liver purification and apigenin, a substance with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, antiallergic and anticancer.

Fennel: health benefits

The properties of fennel have been known since ancient times, where it was used for its ability to promote human health. In particular, the benefits listed below can be mentioned.

✓ Fennel protects the liver

Thanks to some of its components, such as the aforementioned rosmarinic acid, fennel acts as a protective and purifying agent for the liver and proves to be an excellent ally for anyone with liver problems. According to some studies, in fact, the use of fennel improves all liver parameters.

✓ Diuretic and hypotensive properties

Some studies have evaluated the ability of fennel extract to increase the excretion of water, sodium and potassium, thus decreasing systemic pressure in hypertensive mice.

✓ Estrogenic properties and galactogenic activity

Several studies show that fennel can be used to promote the menstrual cycle, increase fertility and libido. Furthermore, thanks to the presence of anethole, fennel stimulates the production and secretion of breast milk.

✓ Expectorant benefits of fennel

According to some authors, fennel is able to stimulate the movement of the cilia present in the respiratory system, thus favoring the removal of foreign bodies and carrying out expectorant activity.

✓ Antioxidant and anticancer activity

There are several antioxidant compounds contained in fennel, some of which have a recognized antitumor and inhibitory capacity against mutagenesis induced by solar radiation. Among these we have already mentioned quercetin and apigenin. In addition, we mention the presence of isoquercetin, kempferol and isoramnetina.

✓ Anxiolytic and anti-stress properties

In a study in mice, the anxiolytic effect of fennel extract was compared with that of a common drug used for the treatment of these disorders, obtaining comparable results. Similarly, in a study, the anti-stress activity of fennel extract was demonstrated in mice subjected to forced physical activity.

✓ Digestive benefits of fennel

Since ancient times and still today in India it is customary to consume fennel at the end of a meal to aid digestion and freshen the breath. The essential oil of fennel is often used to regulate the motility of the smooth muscles of the colon and to decrease flatulence and the disorders of heaviness and swollen belly experienced in case of colitis.

The digestive properties of fennel are undoubted and its use can also be useful in effectively relieving colic in babies. Furthermore, recent studies have shown the effectiveness of fennel even in cases of irritable bowel syndromes (IBS).

Precisely for these reasons the use of fennel in phytotherapy is very wide: there are numerous herbal teas or products suggested to improve symptoms related to meteorism, flatulence, slow digestion or constipation that contain extracts of fennel or its essential oil.

✓ Useful in weight loss

Fennel has a reduced calorie content and is also able to suppress appetite and increase satiety time. They are therefore excellent allies for those who want to get back in shape.

✓ Against menstrual pain

Finally, fennel has anti -inflammatory, anti-nociceptive and anti-spasmodic properties. In a recent scientific review, for example, its consumption was linked to effective management of dysmenorrhea. In fact, 5 studies have shown an efficacy equal to the common drugs used in the management of particularly painful menstrual cycles.

Raw and cooked fennel: differences and which one to prefer

Fennel can be used both raw and cooked in numerous preparations, nevertheless we remember that, as for other vegetables, the cooking process of fennel can cause a significant loss of heat-sensitive vitamins, such as vitamin C, and the dispersion of salts. minerals in cooking liquids. Cooking, however, “softens” the fibers present in large quantities and may be a more suitable solution for those with digestive problems or those who struggle to digest the fibers. In addition, cooked fennel has a greater laxative effect.

To fully benefit from its nutritional characteristics, it is advisable to take raw fennel which, while keeping all its nutrients unaltered, also manages to have the well-known deflating effect caused by anethole and its mineral salts. If, on the other hand, you want to use cooked fennel, it is preferable to cook it for a few minutes avoiding direct contact with water, for example it can be steamed or cooked in a pan for a few minutes.

How much fennel to eat

Fennel belongs to the food category of vegetables and, as such, a portion is equivalent to about 200 grams , weighed raw. This quantity is equivalent to about half a large fennel or a small fennel and provides only 26 kilocalories in all. When we find it in season (in the autumn / winter and early spring period), we can also consume fennel every day to benefit from all its beneficial qualities seen above. In addition to being eaten raw with a simple side dish, it can be used in numerous preparations in the kitchen. Let’s see below some tips about it.

Fennel: how to use it in cooking and herbal teas

Fennel is an extremely variable element that lends itself to different uses in the kitchen. Sweet fennel can be used cooked (preferably steamed), in soups and stews or baked au gratin, or raw, in pinzimonio or in salads to be prepared for example with oranges.

For its raw consumption we advise you to use fennel with more rounded buds and reserve the fennel with more tapered buds for cooked consumption.

Wild fennel (which we will see in more detail in the next paragraph), on the other hand, can be used to flavor different pasta or meat dishes. Even fennel seeds can be used to flavor dishes or for the preparation of decoctions with digestive properties.

For example, you can prepare a good fennel tea by proceeding as follows: mix 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds (available in herbal medicine) with the same amount of lime and rosemary and leave to infuse in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Filter to obtain a draining and soothing herbal tea perfect for digesting after a hearty lunch but also to eliminate intestinal colic.

Wild fennel: what it is and what it is used for

Wild fennel is a variety of fennel that grows spontaneously and differs from “traditional” fennel because it has a very small heart (the white part of the fennel). Precisely this difference in the size and consistency of the heart determines that of the wild fennel the heart is not used but the very thin leaves and the famous fennel seeds obtained from the inflorescences used mainly as aromatic herb (excellent, for example, to flavor the sauce of tomato) or as an infusion. Like “classic” fennel, wild fennel also has carminative, deflating and draining properties.

Fennel: contraindications and potential negative effects

Fennel has many properties and contains many beneficial substances for our health. Like all substances, however, excessive consumption, especially fennel seeds and fennel herbal teas, is not recommended and may have contraindications.

In fact, among the various substances contained in fennel we find estragole, an organic compound recognized as a carcinogen. The quantity of this compound present in good quality seeds and extracts is decidedly low; therefore the regular consumption of the aforementioned foods within a healthy and balanced diet is recommended. However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and in children under 4 years of age, we recommend that you seek advice from your doctor.

Particular attention to the consumption of fennel, moreover, in the case of antibiotic treatment with ciprofloxacin: in fact, fennel reduces the activity of the drug, decreasing its effectiveness.


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